Lately I have been trying to open my mind to the realm of food letting no preconceptions hold me back. It is my effort to break down any food barriers of the taste buds of my past, and allow the flood of new flavors engulf me. In this mentality, I am forcing myself to try things that I have childhood recollections of hating. One of these dishes is chicken mole. Although I have the worst memory, especially of details of childhood, I distinctly remember my father melting down chocolate to use as part of his loved mole sauce, then being served a plateful of chicken and despising it so deeply that I spit it out in my napkin and refused to finish my plate. So, a couple of weeks ago, I asked Dad to send me his recipe that I remember hating so much.
For Thanksgiving this year, it was a small party in Oregon with my mom and her friend. We didn’t want to do the hoopla of a grandiose traditional Thanksgiving, but instead making a meal out of the old mole recipe from the past. We hunted our recipes and our minds for dishes that would sufficiently match the chicken mole. Mom made a smooth carrot cumin cilantro soup topped with a simple red onion salsa. The sharp, spicy salsa paired excellently with the sweet carrots. For the vegetable, we took an item used in Thanksgivings of yore, the spaghetti squash. This squash is so delicious and so easy to make. Just slice it open and pop it in the oven face down for 45 minutes to an hour. When it’s soft, take it out and shred the squash with a fork making spaghetti-like strips. Mix with salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese, and wha-pow! You’ve got a great side. Speghetti squash is also a great substitute for pasta if you are trying to keep on the healthy side. Next, I remembered a recipe from my friend, Fernando, in Mexico for Spanish rice. I asked him how to make that great rice that you find in all the restaurants. He showed me the recipe that his mother had been making him since as long and he could remember. First, sauté onion, garlic and the rice. Then add the water, but instead of a fourth of the water, use tomato sauce. You can also use broth instead of the water. Top with tomatoes and let simmer until it’s done. I used spicy tomato sauce, which added quite a bite that made for a pleasantly unexpected addition. Along with a green salad, and we had our sides.
The mole proved to be a bit trickier. In order for the chicken to be moist, it’s almost like you have to undercook it a bit, and then finish cooking it when combining with the mole sauce. I cooked my chicken in about 2 inches of broth with a stalk of celery. For the mole paste, put raisins, almonds, onions, cilantro, garlic, chili powder cloves, cinnamon, and cumin and blend until smooth. Next, add the melted chocolate, broth and tomato sauce. And then just let it cook for 20 minutes. Add the chicken, and let it cook for 10 more minutes, and voila! You have chicken mole. I topped it with toasted almonds and pumpkin seeds and goat cheese. To be honest, the taste of the mole took me back to remembering that little girl that was so afraid to try things. I’ve tried mole since then at restaurants or made it from the jar in Mexico, and this flavor was not the same. I was not 100% satisfied that this could be my best mole. I felt it was lacking some chocolate or some chilies or something. My mom said she loved it, but in true mother form, I think she would like deep-fried poo if I cooked it for her. If anyone has any mole advice, please let me know because this one is for sure a work in progress.
We finished the meal with blackberry cobbler and pumpkin pie. My mom used fresh blackberries from the bushes on her property, with a very simple recipe that I found a couple of years ago that makes a bready, sweet, crispy top. I made the pumpkin pie from my favorite recipe, the one on the Libby’s pumpkin can. It has evaporated milk, which I believe makes a spongier, lighter pie than some of the recipes with cream cheese and half and half.
If you have any Turkey Day recipes to share, please send me a comment! I would love to make some new stuff and open up my foodspirienced mind even further. And tell me, are you foodspirienced?